Changing Family Holiday Traditions

Changing Family Holiday Traditions

Changing Family Holiday Traditions

Early in their marriage Susan and Scott* wanted to please both of their families when it came to how they spent time together over the holidays. Her mom wanted them to celebrate Thanksgiving with her. His mom celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, so her mom requested Christmas Day at her house. 

Despite some angst over changing things up, it worked fairly well until their first child came along. Then they realized that traveling late on Christmas Eve was not ideal. Once again, they found themselves stepping out and messing with tradition. 

After negotiating, Susan and Scott decided to stay home for Christmas. Anybody who wanted to join the celebration was welcome. While not without its challenges, this adjustment to tradition held for a number of years - even as siblings married and added more in-laws into the mix. 

Now Scott and Susan’s children are adults with jobs and lives of their own. Once again, Susan and Scott find themselves in a situation where what has worked in the past for holiday celebrations doesn’t seem to fit their current needs. While their parents still want time with them, Susan and Scott also want to celebrate with their own children. Except now, their grown kids only have the actual holiday off. 

How can they be considerate of everyone as they plan to spend time with the ones they love?

Change can be complicated, and trying to please everyone can create a stressful holiday season for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of how families can easily transition from one phase to the next?

Since that is not the case, here are some suggestions for navigating change and experiencing a special holiday season, no matter what stage of life you are in:

  • Instead of pressuring your grown children to keep things the way they have always been, give them the flexibility they need. 
  • Communication is key. Many misunderstandings surrounding the holidays happen because family members base their decisions on assumptions. Instead of being silent, request a family conference call or send out an email telling family members that you can adapt or adjust if necessary.
  • Take responsibility for your own emotions. Change is often difficult. The older you get, the more you realize you have limited time on earth. Although you want to spend more time with family members, they often have busy lives of their own. Acknowledging these feelings is important, and connecting with friends in a similar situation can help.
  • If you are the younger generation, recognize that holiday celebrations/traditions tend to be filled with emotion for everyone. In the midst of trying to juggle everything, be patient with your extended family. 
  • Even if being there on the actual holiday isn’t possible, make it a point to celebrate at a different time.

In the throes of preparing for the holidays, it can be easy to get all worked up about what everyone expects from you. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that family members are probably not intentionally seeking to complicate your life. Take some time to talk with your spouse and/or family to brainstorm possibilities. Then build a plan that works best, knowing that everybody may not be 100 percent pleased with the end result.